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COVID-19 Coverage

Canada orders end to major bridge blockade as convoy protests spread elsewhere

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now we want to hear about the latest developments in those protests demanding an end to COVID-19 safety measures in Canada. The demonstrations have been going on for more than two weeks in the Canadian capital of Ottawa, and they've moved to several border crossings between the U.S. and Canada. Police efforts to clear the demonstrations have been complicated by the presence of many large trucks, which the protesters have been using to block roadways. Emma Jacobs is with us now from Montreal to tell us more. Emma, thanks for joining us.

EMMA JACOBS, BYLINE: Thank you.

MARTIN: So what's been happening today?

JACOBS: So it's been an eventful 24 hours across Canada. Police this morning, they started to move in and, in large numbers, to try and clear the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge. That's the bridge that connects Detroit, Mich., to Windsor, Ontario, and it carries more than a quarter of U.S.-Canada trade. This came after an injunction that was issued by an Ontario court yesterday afternoon, which was requested by automakers and the city of Windsor as a supporter. The auto manufacturers have very integrated supply chains across that bridge, and temporary stoppages have occurred as a result of this now multiday blockade.

A lot of the vehicles that were there have left voluntary - excuse me - have left voluntarily. Ontario declared a state of emergency and increased penalties for blocking critical infrastructure this week, but there's still a remaining group of people, mostly on foot. I'm not aware of any arrests yet. But meanwhile, there are the continuing demonstrations in Ottawa, where more people tend to show up on the weekends, and there have also been demonstrations in Toronto and in Montreal today. But this action in Windsor, it's one of the biggest efforts we've seen to try and remove one of the blockades that have emerged over the past two weeks. And as of right now, the bridge cams still show no traffic in either direction.

MARTIN: I understand that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a call with President Biden yesterday. Do we know what they talked about?

JACOBS: We know they spoke about the Ambassador Bridge's economic impact of that blockade. Trudeau says Biden indicated that resources were available to help clear the blockade but wouldn't go into details. And he said they discussed the role of American right-wing support for the demonstrations, including donated funds. And on Thursday, 911 in Ottawa was deliberately flooded by calls coming from the United States. This was Trudeau speaking on Friday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: We see that almost half of the funding through certain portals that is flowing to the barricaders here in Canada is coming from the United States. We see a mobilization of some of the more challenging political elements in Canada and in the United States around support for these blockades that are hurting citizens.

MARTIN: And now these demonstrations are starting to spread to other countries, right?

JACOBS: Yeah. This has become a Canadian export. Organization is solidifying for convoy-style protests in the United States. There were demonstrations that reached Paris today as the convoy that had left from Nice earlier this week arrived there - and in Canberra, in Australia. And in some of these protests overseas, we're seeing Canadian flags appear in the photos from these demonstrations.

MARTIN: So as briefly as you can, Emma, in the capital, Ottawa, residents have been living with this for a couple of weeks now. So the people who aren't taking part in this, could you just remind us how they feel about it?

JACOBS: They're really frustrated. There was a counterprotest today of Ottawa residents chanting, end the occupation now. And that seems to be the feeling that police have really left these people living with this now two-week demonstration that is very noisy. And the police just say they don't have the resources to clear right now.

MARTIN: That was reporter Emma Jacobs in Montreal. Emma, thank you so much.

JACOBS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF 9ICK'S "NYHAVN BY NIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Emma Jacobs